MOORLACH UPDATE — Veterans Cemetery — March 25, 2019

My not signing a letter concerning the potential Veterans cemetery at the Great Park was mentioned in the Voice of OC column below. I warned five years ago that this would be a long-term endeavor (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Bicycle Safety — August 26, 2014).

I explained my concerns about the Department of Veterans Affairs back then in great detail (see MOORLACH UPDATE — You’re Being Political — April 9, 2014).

My parents survived Nazi occupation in the Netherlands during World War II. So I am very proud of our veterans who served in the European war zone and liberated Holland. I would not be alive today if not for the sacrifices that generation made. Consequently, I am a big supporter of veterans. Period.

That being said, the proposal to place a Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park has been an interesting effort. From a parochial standpoint, this piece of real estate is located in my Senate District and Steven Choi’s Assembly District. So it’s always awkward when legislators from other areas decide to unilaterally overstep their jurisdictions. Especially when Assemblyman Choi is the former Mayor of the city of Irvine.

Set aside the awkwardness, I have been stating for five years that this should not be a political football. It should be realistic and achievable. Period.

The Orange County Cemetery District may be part of the solution. I’m not so sure that the California Department of Veterans Affairs should be, as economic cycles are not good to this agency. But, if my colleagues are concerned about the cemetery, then let’s form a Blue Ribbon Committee and get things done.

In the meantime, I wrote the following letter to CalVet in January of 2015 to determine my own comfort level:

Secretary Vito Imbasciani, MD

Department of Veterans Affairs

P.O. Box 942895

Sacramento, CA 94295

Dear Secretary Imbasciani:

I respectfully write to you concerning the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) and its ability to oversee and manage funds appropriated for our California Veterans Cemeteries. Recent inquiries by my staff to both CalVet and the Department of Finance concerning the financing of these cemeteries resulted were less than sufficient. While I had intended to ask the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC) approve an audit to examine CalVet finances related to the cemeteries, I thought it would be helpful to formally inquire with you first.

For context, with the national Veteran’s Administration scandals over the treatments of our veterans in their hospitals, it gave me pause to read the Little Hoover Commission’s letter dated December 8, 2015 (included) which outlines CalVet’s systematic infrastructure and bureaucratic issues that impair its overall operations, “failing to provide the safe and dignified living environment that California veterans deserve.” During a December 11, 2015 legislative briefing at the State Capitol that Keith Boylan, Deputy Secretary of CalVet, declared the Yountville Veteran Home was their “crowning jewel.” As has been demonstrated by various reports, if maintenance efforts are failing at the best of our veteran homes to assist the living, what is happening at the other California facilities, especially the cemeteries under CalVet jurisdiction to honor the dead? If our veteran homes are not being maintained, how does CalVet properly prioritize and maintain the final resting place of the men, women and their families who have served our country?

With the expansion of regional California Veterans Cemeteries, including the Monterey site currently under construction as well as the Southern California Veterans Cemetery to be located at the Great Park in the City of Irvine as proposed in Assembly Bill 1453 (Quirk-Silva, 2014), I would like more information on the following issues:

  • What is the process for establishing a financing plan that provides for receiving and establishing endowments for Veteran Cemeteries so that they may be well maintained in perpetuity? Is there an endowment process established and is it consistent among the various cemeteries? How are the funds managed?
  • Specifically, do the burial benefits – which include gravesites for casket or cremation remains, headstones or markers, opening and closing of the graves, and continued perpetual care – actually and adequately cover the long-term cost of maintaining the endowment for any or all of the CalVet cemeteries?
  • How has the $6.8 million federal grant awarded for building the California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery been spent? For what were these funds used?
  • Per AB 1453, the legislature created the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund (SCVCMDF). The legislation stipulates that CalVet will “apply for Veterans Cemetery Grants Program of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs for a grant of not more than 100% of the estimated cost for designing, developing, constructing, and equipping the cemetery.” With the SCVCMDF and other federal funding, is there enough funding to adequately maintain the cemetery in perpetuity?
  • How many of the Veteran Cemeteries are in current need of repair and maintenance? What is the extent of the needed repairs or maintenance, including the estimated associated costs? What is CalVet’s process for Veteran Cemetery improvements?
  • In 2013, the state budget authorized $153,000 to Yountville Cemetery and the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo for upgrades. How were those funds utilized? Are these funds sufficient to also deal with continued maintenance needs?
  • What is CalVet doing to ensure Veteran Cemeteries are properly maintained in the future?
  • Has CalVet made a decision to forego or delay replacement or repair of items in any of the California Veterans Cemeteries when funding has been available?
  • Who is currently responsible for CalVet cemetery oversight? Is there someone appointed to the position of Assistant Deputy Secretary for Veterans Outreach, Memorials, and Cemeteries, as listed by the State Personnel Board on November 19, 2015? If not, when does CalVet expect that position to be filled?
  • What responsibility is placed on the Local Interagency Network Coordinators (LINC) – which serve as both informational conduits to the community and feedback resources for CalVet, as well as bridging the gap between CalVet and the federal, state, county, and nongovernment agencies that provide services to our state’s nearly 2 million veterans – to provide maintenance of Veteran Cemeteries?

After sending the letter, members of CalVet’s staff dropped by for a visit with my Capitol staff, but no formal written response was received.

Hopefully this will help you understand why I elected to layoff on signing the letter to the City of Irvine. As the Senator for the Great Park, I am more than happy to assist on something concrete, funded and dignified; showing the due respect our nation’s Veterans deserve. Period.

Santana: OC State Lawmakers Jump Back Into The Fight For a Veterans Cemetery

By Norberto Santana Jr.NORBERTO SANTANA JR.


Democratic State Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk Silva is leading a bipartisan coalition of OC state lawmakers that want the state government to take over development of the veterans’ cemetery in Irvine.

Quirk Silva, along with five state assembly members from Orange County, late last week sent a joint letter to Irvine City Council members calling on them to essentially give the state ownership over a site in Irvine at the former Marine Air Base at El Toro slated for a Orange County veterans’ cemetery.

“On March 11, 2014, the Irvine City Council by an unanimous vote designated the Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA) Site at the Great Park “as the best possible site” for a Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery.

We ask that you continue to support this shared goal by conveying this particular property to the state,” wrote Quirk Silva in a letter co-signed by Democratic State Assembly members Tom Daly (69 AD) and Tom Umberg (34-SD) and Republicans Tyler Diep (72 AD), William Brough (73 AD) and Phillip Chen (55 –AD).

While council members long ago dedicated the 125-acre site near the heart of the old base for a veterans’ cemetery, the project has been mired and ultimately delayed, in the mud of local politics.

After local developers voiced concerns over the location of the cemetery, largely because of Feng Shui concerns from Asian real estate clients, a debate emerged amongst local politicians over how to re-locate the veterans’ site and accommodate all sides.

Not easy. Not even likely.

Local elections in 2018 were dominated by an intense battle over a proposal to swap the original site for a similarly-sized land tract near the interchange between the 405 and 5 freeways, called the Strawberry Fields.

Voters rejected that plan handily last summer.

Afterwards, another plan emerged to use a nearby golf course tract instead of the designated land (the ARDA site). Irvine planning commissioners recently endorsed this option on a 4-1 margin.

Meanwhile, county supervisors offered an option of their own this past summer, offering the potential of developing a county veterans cemetery – alongside a public civilian cemetery – on donated land from the Irvine Company, near the intersection of the 91 freeway and 241 toll road.

Unlike any Irvine project, the county option has the full backing of the dais that can authorize it, in this case the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Former Irvine Mayor Don Wagner – who just won a special election this month onto the board of supervisors – will likely soon impact that debate.

In Irvine, Wagner prevented former City Councilman Jeff Lalloway from offering a motion moving forward with the original ARDA site last summer – after the loss of the Strawberry Fields election – instead calling for traffic and environmental reviews on the original site with no date set for action.

A June 2016 study of the ARDA site conducted by the Los Angeles-based Owen Group for the California Department of General Services priced the first phase of development at $78 million, including nearly $40 million in demolition and cleanup costs.

The Owen report notes that more soil studies should be conducted on the ARDA site and if toxic soil were to be found, the cost to clean it up would increase the price dramatically. The report does not give an estimate on soil remediation, but does say if enough contamination is found, the site should be excavated eight to 10 feet in an effort to remove the contamination.

Quirk Silva years back did secure $5 million from the legislature toward the development of a veterans’ cemetery during a tough election campaign in 2014 that featured the support of then-Gov. Jerry Brown and a supermajority hanging in the balance.

To date, state leaders have largely stayed on the sidelines in Irvine’s longstanding debate about the location of the regional veterans cemetery.

That may have changed.

“History demonstrates that the State Legislature supports a Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery,” reads the state legislators’ March 21 letter.

“Previous legislation, supported by the City, AB 1453 (Quirk-Silva, Statutes of 2014) selected the ARDA Site and allocated $4.5 million to a Master Development Fund. This measure received unanimous and bipartisan support.”

The letter essentially calls on Irvine city council members to put up or shut up.

“Today, we are ready to work with State and Federal officials to secure funding for the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery. We ask that you stand by your previous commitment to provide a resting place for California’s veterans at the ARDA site.”

There are some odd names missing from the state legislators’ letter – such as Republicans Steven Choi from Irvine or State Senators like John Moorlach or Pat Bates.

So it’s hard to know how deep the support for this proposal runs.

I reached out to Quirk Silva but mainly got a quote through an official spokesman.

“My colleagues and I felt that our bill needed a location and we wanted the City of Irvine’s Council to be aware that there is support for the original ARDA site,” said Quirk-Silva though her spokesman.

I also reached out this weekend to Nick Berardino, President of VALOR (Veterans Alliance of Orange County), who has been advocating for a veterans’ cemetery for years, for his take.

Berardino – an old veteran of many a legislative trench over the years – is, as always, following the money.

“We are excited that the legislature is poised to support the veterans cemetery and impressed that the Orange County delegation is able to secure the funding in this years budget.”


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Goodbye to my Dad — March 23, 2019

This will be one of those weeks that will be hard to forget.

There were a number of groups in Sacramento that wanted me to share a few thoughts, including the Association of California Cities – Orange County, the Orange County Business Council, Senator Scott Wilk’s annual Santa Clarita business leaders conference, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) – California, Gen Next, the Chief Probation Officers of California, and the Pacific Club (back in the District).

I was also honored at a reception by the National Federation of Independent Business and presented with the Guardian of Small Business Award. A few legislators were feted by the Easterseals Board of Directors at their Annual Awards Dinner, presenting Sen. Scott Wiener and me with the 2019 Senate Leadership Award for joint authoring SB 1004 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1004 and CIRM — September 10, 2018 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Joint Author Details — July 7, 2018).

If that was not enough, I also had a successful campaign fundraiser in the District after touching down at John Wayne Airport Thursday evening, with appreciation to my hosts and guests.

However, on my way to the Sacramento airport Thursday afternoon, I received the news that my 91 year old father, Kent M. Moorlach, was overcome by his recent battle with a pulmonary embolism and went to be with Jesus in Heaven. How thankful I am that I made a quick trip to Colorado two weeks ago to spend time with him, to thank him for raising me,and to say goodbye to my Dad.

Klaas Meindert Moorlach was born in the Netherlands on October 27, 1927. He would endure Nazi occupation during World War II. After the war, when life settled down, he attended Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he earned a Doctorandus (Drs.) in Economics with distinction.

He married my mother, Rieka Dina Cornelia de Boer, on August 27, 1953. They would have two children, me, Johannes M. W., and Edward H. J. before they immigrated to California in 1960. In the United States, they Americanized their names to Kent and Rita, and mine to John, and had two more children, Kent M. and Annemarie.

My Dad left his family business in the grain industry, the Moorlach Meelfabriek (Flour Mill) in Uithuizermeeden, for the insurance industry in Southern California, attaining the Chartered Life Underwriter (C.L.U.) designation. He worked as an agent for the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he was a colleague of David Cox, who would later become a California Assemblyman and Senator, and for whom the Cox Lounge is named (which is located off of the Senate Chambers). He also sold property and casualty insurance and took care of my car insurance needs until he retired.

He is survived by my mother and his four children and their spouses, 13 grandchildren (with one more due next month), and 4 great grandchildren. His memorial service will be April 13th at 10:30 a.m. at Christ Community Church in Buena Park (formerly Community Reformed Church, the church in which I was raised and where later married my wife, Trina). For those who knew my remarkable father, you are welcome to attend (please RSVP tokentmoorlach).

Back to my mention of the group from Santa Clarita. I believe they had a fun visit to the State Capitol in Sacramento, which is documented here:

One of the attendees expanded on the topic that I was asked to speak on in the piece below in The Signal.

25th Anniversary Look Back

The March 24, 1994 edition of the Daily Pilot provided some drama to what should have been a nonevent with a piece titled “Supervisorial candidates upset about being left out of forum — Republican group invites only GOP hopefuls to speak at its meeting, although the race is non-partisan.” It gave two Democrat supervisorial candidates a chance to make a news story out of nothing. Not being invited did not offend my opponent. Mr. Citron refused to meet me at any venue throughout the campaign as he was not a good public speaker and also stuttered.

The internet was not so robust 25 years ago and obtaining public documents required a ten day ordeal. But, doing so ratcheted things up a bit. On March 29th, I sent Mr. Citron a California Public Records Act Request, certified mail, with copies to the Board of Supervisors and the media, asking for the following:

1. Copies of the Orange County Investment Pool’s annual financial reports from June 30, 1971 to present.
2. Portfolio listings of for several quarters, including face value, cost basis, date of purchase and date of expiration.
3. A listing of all the transactions in the Pool for the quarter ended March 31, 1994.
4. Copies of broker statements for the first three months of the year.
5. A listing of participant investment amounts at the end of each quarter.
6. The investment policies and procedures for participants.
7. A listing of the brokers of the Pool’s transactions.

These public records were not on the incumbent Treasurer’s website. However, I would post or provide this information after my appointment the following year.

Jason Gibbs | Beware of the State’s Pension Tsunami

Earlier this week, local leaders and community advocates journeyed to Sacramento to partake in discussions with policy advisors and elected officials on a wide range of state and local issues.

KHTS held their 14th annual Sacramento bus trip providing the opportunity to relay both our concerns and support with actions and legislation that significantly affects the way we live, the businesses we run, and how we raise our families here in Santa Clarita. Thank you to Sen. Scott Wilk, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, Assemblywoman Christy Smith, and to all the employees and staff who made this an incredible and successful experience!

While all of the topics and speakers were well presented and opined, it felt like kismet when the topic I had begun writing about for this column was discussed by Sen. John Moorlach: pension reform.

While it seems to be a requirement in today’s political theater to approach topics and principles solely from a partisan standpoint, the need to evaluate the impacts of our political posturing on those who simply want to live and thrive in this state without engaging in the ceaseless drama, is at critical mass.

It’s no secret that the California pension system is insolvent and is leaving a crushing debt that will inevitably consume our coffers without immediate and drastic action. Unfortunately, under the guise of unfettered democratic rule, the system is reaching all new levels of disaster.

With ever-increasing benefit promises, overinflating return rates from investment portfolios, and the political tentativeness to share costs of these pensions onto employees, Sacramento can no longer play the role of ostrich and ignore this issue.

State and local governments face more than $400 billion in unfunded liabilities (which is just political speak for debt) according to the State Controllers’ office report in 2016. However, these numbers are probably low! CalPERS assumed their investments would have a set return rate over time (set to be 7 percent in 2020). If you assume a market rate return of closer to 3 percent, which is more conservative and practical, the debt is over a TRILLION dollars!

It’s not just non-conservative return rates that have caused this debacle! Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation just before the dot-com bubble burst allowing early retirement and additional pension benefits. This extended to local governments and school districts as well, including providing pension holidays. Suffice it to say, the dot-com crash and then the great recession (which wiped out nearly 30 percent in CalPERS assets) did nothing to help achieve the pie-in-the-sky promises.

Additionally, the life expectancy of workers is more than what the program estimated, which, again means more cost that must be paid! Just like with Social Security, predicative models indicate there will not be enough workers to sustain the amount of retirees.

Bottom line…it is unsustainable!

Pensions are funded from three sources: returns on investment, employee contributions and government employer contributions. Therefore, when we discuss how to get more money into the fund, the answers are charge the government more (i.e. taxes), charge the employer more for the care they are promised, or hope that CalPERS can get a better return on their investment.

Historically, the state has been extremely hesitant on the first two options. Large labor unions do not advocate for making their members pay more for their benefits. Cities will not advocate taxing the populace to pay more for employee pension and health-care promises.

Therefore, the state has relied solely on the investment portfolios to meet their expectations. Thirty years ago, CalPERS projected 8.75 percent returns and CalSTRS assumed 8.5 percent, but those rates are dropping to 7 percent in 2020. Even at these lower rates, many advisors argue that these rates are entirely too optimistic.

Joe Nation, the project director for Pension Tracker, suggests a market rate of closer to 3.3 percent is much more realistic. But, if the retirement plans assume such a low rate of return, that means the employer or employee will have to make up the $700 billion in losses. Good luck getting the unions or taxpayers to agree to that!

In fact, Gov. Brown tried in 2012 to close the gap by forming a hybrid system with pensions and traditional 401(K) plans, but Democrats blocked this plan.

No matter how you look at it, debt is non-partisan. Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, we taxpayers are responsible for these obligations. What’s more of a travesty is we are passing this burden on to generations that had no say in its creation! While I was the only City Council candidate to discuss the real dangers of pension liabilities, I hope our elected officials will see the importance of actually doing something, and not just utter phrases like “we need more resources.”

Because frankly, relying on portfolios to outperform reality, for retirees to not live as long, and for a non-stop economic boom to pay these promises, is not just unrealistic, it is immoral!

Jason Gibbs is a Santa Clarita resident. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among several local Republicans.


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Income Tax Returns — March 21, 2019

Two fun subtopics emerge today. The first is receiving a reporter call when my calendar finds me in back-to-back appointments. Staff’s suggestion? Refer to my UPDATE from 2017 on the first iteration of the bill that is being resubmitted, but with a new Governor who may not veto it, like the last Governor did (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017).

The second is resubmitting bills in subsequent years. I have two bills this year that are doing the same thing. They were both well received in the Legislature, receiving no opposition votes, only to be vetoed by Governor Brown. So, I can appreciate it when Democrats do the same thing after having had their legislation rebuffed.

The Fresno Bee covers the reintroduction of a requirement that United States Presidential candidates have their tax returns disclosed in the piece below. As a C.P.A., I can appreciate the time commitment just to get the returns completed while also pursuing a nationwide campaign. But, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) reporting requirements are much more onerous and detailed, providing much more information than a tax return.

If Trump wants to get on California’s 2020 ballot, he might need to release his tax returns

By Bryan Anderson

For the second time in three years, a California Democrat is trying to force President Donald Trump to release his tax returns.

Under Senate Bill 27, presidential candidates from all parties would need to publicly disclose the last five years of their tax returns if they want to have their name on the state’s primary ballot.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown – who didn’t release his own tax returns – vetoed the same proposal in 2017, warning it “may not be constitutional” and could set a “slippery slope” precedent.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, called Brown’s veto “hogwash” and is re-introducing the bill in hopes Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign it. Newsom has promised to be the first California governor to release his tax returns annually.

McGuire will need two-thirds support from his colleagues, but is confident he’ll get it, given that it passed by similar margins in 2017. The proposal even received support from two former Republican Assembly members, one of whom is now a Democrat.

“If Hillary Clinton had done this, we’d be having the same conversation right now,” McGuire said. “This bill is solely focused on providing voters the information they need to make an educated decision.”

Public opinion polls show the vast majority of people want to see Trump’s tax returns. In the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election, 74 percent of American likely voters, including 62 of Republicans, said in a Quinnipiac University poll that Trump should release the information. Nearly three-fourths of adults surveyed after the election in a Washington Post/ABC News poll agreed the president should disclose his tax records.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla supports the proposal, saying in a statement it would “write this vital norm of our democracy into state law.”

“Candidates who are serious about holding the highest office in the nation should be transparent about their personal financial interests,” Padilla added. “The American people have a right to know about the commander-in-chief’s potential conflicts of interest. For years, candidates for president from both parties released their personal tax returns.”

Despite the public’s desire for candidates to release their tax returns, it remains to be seen whether California can legally force Trump’s hand. If the bill is signed into law in the coming months, McGuire said he would expect a legal challenge from Trump.

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly said he’d release his tax returns after an IRS audit was completed, even though nothing precludes a president from releasing tax returns while under audit. Former President Richard Nixon disclosed the information as he was being audited when he was in office.

Trump’s tone has shifted bit now that he’s in office, as he’s suggested he wouldn’t release the document during his presidency. In May 2017, he told The Economist, “I might release (the tax returns) after I’m out of office.”

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, called McGuire’s plan “constitutionally dubious.” He noted that it doesn’t require the same of statewide California candidates.

McGuire said it isn’t necessary for California elected officials to release their tax records since they are already subject to California ethics laws, unlike the president.

The Democratic lawmaker acknowledged California doesn’t have the ability to dictate the terms of a general election, as the national political parties have that power. Still, he’s adamant that states have the right to set the rules for candidates wishing to get their name on the state’s primary ballots.

“California would not be where we’re at today if the president would have upheld 40 years of tradition and released his tax returns,” McGuire said. “We’re here today because the president has something to hide.”


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Total Compensation Negotiations — March 20, 2019

Informing the residents of California about the per capita unrestricted net position of cities, school districts, community college districts, counties and states is something I’ve done to bring some sense of fiscal reality to their consciousness. For many municipalities, the finances are not pretty. And, personnel costs, from a "total compensation" perspective, need to be carefully reviewed.

Fox & Hounds provides an editorial submittal, in the piece below, that touches on this concern and provides a couple of Sacramento bargaining-unit milestones to be watching in the months ahead.

Seven Year Look Back

For the joys that our new Governor will be facing on the negotiating front, see the fun I had as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors back in 2012 at MOORLACH UPDATE — Total Compensation Fireworks — July 7, 2012.

How Much Should We Pay Our Public Sector Workers?

David Kersten

By David KerstenDavid Kersten is an independent political consultant who lives in the Bay Area. Kersten is also an adjunct professor of public budgeting at the University of San Francisco.

Public employee compensation issues are never far from the headlines in California, but both 2019 and 2020 appear likely to continue the recent trend of increasingly contentious negotiations and the accompanying highly charged public debate.

At the local level, in recent months we have already seen teacher strike authorization votes in the major urban school districts of Oakland, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, among other localities.

At the state level, the election of Gov. Gavin Newsom raises the question of whether the Governor’s Office will continue former Gov. Brown’s precedent of requiring state level bargaining units to accept new paycheck deductions to help pay for the cost of retiree medical care.

Newsom has already signaled that he will uphold the “California rule,” which prohibits any reduction of existing public employees’ pensions even if it causes the insolvency, and or ultimate bankruptcy of the public agency in question.

Five bargaining units representing about 46,000 state workers have contacts expiring in July 2019, and the contract for SEIU Local 1000, the state’s largest union representing about 95,000 employees, expires in January 2020, according to a Sacramento Bee report.

What is not often discussed during this periodic collective bargaining process at both the local and state levels of government in California is whether the state’s system for setting public employee compensation is working or not, and perhaps more importantly, whether this whole system is sustainable given the state’s rapidly escalating public debt levels?

The unfortunate reality is that the state’s whole collective bargaining system, and accompanying laws, was setup decades ago, dating back to Gov. Brown’s first stint as Governor, and has changed little since then.

As recent events have begun to suggest more clearly, this system appears increasingly disconnected from several key principles of good government and effective public sector financial management.

Perhaps most importantly, the compensation of our public sector workers should be linked to what is financially affordable and sustainable for a given public agency.

As reported by Senator John Moorlach, the California Policy Center and others, the mounting debt and looming financial insolvency for the vast majority of public agencies in California suggests that many public agencies in California are struggling to pay their contractual debt obligations, of which the vast majority is related to public employee compensation.

Furthermore, the recent strike-ending deals cut in Oakland and Los Angeles only served to exacerbate the financial weaknesses of the school districts and push existing problems further into the future, particularly with regard to public employee compensation practices.

Another key issue that is almost completely forgotten from the get-go, is how much should we pay public sector employees to begin with?

In the private sector, employee compensation is determined by competition and market forces. But in the public sector most positions are compensated based on decades of previous negotiations which yields a pay scale, and total compensation package, that is often far in excess of what would be paid for comparable positions in the private sector.

The public sector unions have perfected their rebuttals to these issues, and I have heard an analyzed all of them, but the simple fact remains: why should California taxpayers compensate public sector workers in excess of the market rate for a given position?

The reality is that it is common for public employees to be compensated far in excess of what they would receive in the private sector for comparable work. The California Policy Center and others have found this excess compensation to be as high as 100% or more when total compensation is included, particularly benefits.

Nobody disputes the value that our public sector workers provide, but when 20% of the state lives in poverty and many more Californians are living paycheck to paycheck, this is really an issue of fundamental fairness and equity to the average California taxpayer.

One last principle that is rarely discussed in the public sector is the concept of linking compensation to performance.

In the private sector, this principle is of the utmost consideration because every employee has to be paid based on the value that they provide to the company. Moreover, the linking of pay to performance often provides a great way to incentivize employees to do a better job, thus benefiting both the employee and the company.

In California public sector collective bargaining, public sector employees are routinely awarded a whole host of bonuses, premiums, retroactive pay increases, and raises without any connection to their actual performance or value provided to the government or people of California.

In addition, as most public managers would tell you, it is almost impossible to fire underperforming or poorly performing employees, and they commonly get moved around without the bureaucracy rather than fired just because it is so difficult, almost unheard of.

From a public management perspective, the impact that this disconnect between compensation and performance permeates the whole system of California government—providing significant disincentives to work hard, produce results, and serve the state and its people in the most beneficial manner possible.

As a former financial analyst for public sector collective bargaining, I am not holding my breath for any of these practices to change soon, but at the same time, I acknowledge that change could be on the horizon at some point.

The reality is that public agencies, while more insulated from market factors, must still operate in the same market economy and within some of the same fiduciary, legal and financial parameters that private businesses do.

If a private company, makes poor financial decisions it goes out of business or is reformed and restored to financial viability.

The public sector, on the other hand, does not have the same financial bottom line as private sector businesses and can continue to deteriorate, both financially and in terms of compromised performance, over a significantly longer time horizon.

Public sector agencies, particularly local government agencies, can run out of money and go bankrupt—ultimately leaving many debts unpaid, particularly public employee debt obligations.

Just take a look at Orange County in the 1990s, and the California cities of Vallejo, Stockton, and San Bernardino in the 2000s.

No U.S. state has went bankrupt yet, but some analysts believe the State of Illinois could be close, and there is also the case of the U.S. territory Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

As the recent unrest in the state’s education system suggests, the road to financial ruin takes time, and is not pretty.

In the end, the people who are the most hurt are the least vulnerable, our teachers and kids in this case–it is just a shame that more of our elected officials and union leaders do not realize this and heed this fact of life before it is too late.


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 754 — March 16, 2019

One of the joys of being a Legislator is that cities in your District wishing to make changes in current law ask me to carry the necessary legislation. A good example is SB 1463 (2016), which I authored for the city of Laguna Beach. It became very prescient relating to the electrical utility sparking wires that caused the wildfire tragedies that were to follow (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 And The Facts — November 19, 2018).

This year, I have several bills that were generated from events occurring within the District. They are SB 241, SB 359, SB 447, SB 584, SB 689, and SB 754.

SB 754 was a request out of the city of Laguna Woods that came just before the deadline for submitting legislation. Consequently, we submitted what is known as a spot bill. A spot bill is a strategy to have a bill in the system that will be changed to reflect the original intent, theoretically, but time did not allow for completing the proper contents before the due date.

So, the piece below in The San Diego Union-Tribune on legislation affecting homeowners associations is accurate, but it is subject to change.

The request out of Laguna Woods came as a result of SB 1128 by Senator Roth last year. This bill satisfactorily cleared both chambers, only to be vetoed by Governor Brown.

The intent was simple. If a large homeowners association (HOA) is having an election and it is a single-slate, there are as many candidates as open positions, then there is no need for a formal election. This is a cost and time-saving modification to the existing C,C&Rs of HOAs. For some reason Senator Roth did not want to try it again since the old friend that prompted him to author it last year has moved out of Laguna Woods.

25th Anniversary Look Back

Twenty-five years ago, I ran for Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector. It was an amazing outside-the-box experience for me, an accountant, that changed the course of my entire life. So, I’m providing anniversary look backs this year with personal insights for those who enjoy history, or were too young, or not even born, to get a sense of this unique and historical effort. For the previous episodes, go to:

* MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Campaign Redux — January 9, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — Proposed Budget Observations — January 12, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — LAUSD and Future Concerns — January 24, 2019

* MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — Then There Were Two — February 2, 2019

* MOORLACH UPDATE — State of the State Reaction — February 13, 2019

In my opening press release, I was clear on my concerns about the investment practices of the incumbent, but I did not make it the original focus. Why? Because I did not want others to see the vulnerability that was present and encourage more candidates to enter the race. So, I focused on the term limits theme. On March 12th, the day after the close of filing, the OC Register would provide a piece, titled “Ballot for Orange County elections begins to take shape.” The “Treasurer-tax collector” race was addressed as follows:

John M. W. Moorlach of Costa Mesa, a certified public accountant and Orange County Republican Central Committee member, issued a statement last month saying he was targeting incumbent Robert L. Citron in part because Citron has spent 28 years in office. Citron said he welcomes the chance for voters to rate his performance. Both have qualified for the ballot.

The treasurer-tax collector deposits and invests county funds.

Because this race would be printed near the bottom of the ballot, I expected this type of article at the beginning of the campaign period and a short article at the end mentioning that I had lost. However, over the next few months, it would garner national attention and be much more interesting than I had predicted.

HOA Homefront – 2019 bills proposing new HOA laws are a mixed bag

By Kelly G. Richardson

This year Sacramento presents another spring season full of ideas for homeowners associations – some bad, some good, and some well-intentioned but needing revision.

Senate Bill 323 is a recycle of last year’s SB 1265, a bill vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2018. SB 323 would add burdensome new elements to the HOA election process and dictate to HOAs who could or could not serve as directors. The bill is as bad an idea this year as it was last year. As Gov. Brown wrote while vetoing its predecessor, SB 323 “takes a once-size-fits-all approach, but not all homeowner associations are alike. If changes to an election process are needed, they should be resolved by the members of that specific community.” Associations should set their board eligibility standards, not Sacramento.

SB 652 addresses the conflict between architectural conformity and religious observance. Does a Jewish mezuzah or Christian cross violate rules banning alteration of doorways? SB 652 would add a new Civil Code 4706, prohibiting associations from limiting or prohibiting display of religious items on entry doors of a member’s residence. There is no limitation on size, number, or appearance of doorway decorations, as long as they are religious. Perhaps some reasonable limit could be stated. Coauthored by 16 legislators, it awaits committee assignment.

SB 434, authored by Sen. Bob Archuleta of southeastern L.A. County, proposes to add a new Civil Code 5382. The proposed statute would require managing agents to produce the association’s records and property (manuals, transponders and keys, for example) within a certain time after termination and/or association request. Managers could not hold association records hostage, if, for example, they claimed the HOA owed them money. There is no penalty for non-compliance, and managers would not be required to produce email correspondence unless it had previously been given to the association. The bill is a good idea but should include correspondence as part of the HOA’s “records.” The bill has been assigned to the Judiciary and Housing committees for hearing.

SB 754, authored by Sen. John Moorlach of Orange County, would make technical amendments to Civil Code 4230. Section 4230 currently allows association boards after 30 days’ notice to the membership to delete CC&R provisions which relate only to developer marketing or completion of the project. SB 754 would increase the required notice to 60 days and also allow deletion of provisions solely related to the developer’s planning of the project. The bill awaits committee assignment.

SB 222 proposes to add a new protected class, “veteran or military status,” to California’s anti-discrimination laws by amending several Government Code Sections. Authored by Sen. Jerry Hill of the San Francisco area, it awaits hearing in the Judiciary Committee.

Assembly Bill 446 would if adopted add a new protected class, “domestic violence victim status,” to California’s anti-discrimination statutes. However, the bill does not define “domestic violence victim status.” Civil Code 1946.7 allows domestic violence victims to break their leases, and perhaps that statute might somehow lead to a definition, to avoid a vague and therefore less helpful statute. Authored by Assembly member Steven Choi of Irvine, it is pending hearing by the Housing and Community Development Committee.

To review legislation or laws, or contact a bill’s author or your representative about proposed new HOA laws, the official California Legislature web site is

Kelly G. Richardson CCAL is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Senior Partner of Richardson Ober PC, a California law firm known for community association advice. Send questions to Kelly. Past columns at


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Death Penalty Reprieve — March 14, 2019

Orange County’s former District Attorney held a strong position of support for the death penalty. So much so, during the Great Recession he still insisted on spending the additional $1 million per case to obtain the death sentence. I did not disagree with him. But, when asked if he could put this policy on hold for a year or two until the economy recovered, he did not give an eloquent defense of his budget position to stand firm in spite of the cost. Instead, he stormed out of the room and launched a personal attack against the individual who asked this simple and rhetorical question.

Spending an additional $1 million to successfully obtain the death sentence is a cost that all of us have borne. It seems that, by giving a four year reprieve, the Governor of California needs to make 58 counties partially whole.

With the Governor’s announcement yesterday to push the hold button on administering a sentence on those who earned the death penalty, it generated the responses you would expect. Those on the left generally praised the decision and those on the right empathized with the relatives of the victims.

CBS 2 and KCAL 9 and MyNewsLA.Com provide reactions in the first piece below. As does California Globe in the second piece. For my statement, see

Mixed Reaction to California Governor’s Death Penalty Moratorium



Orange County’s top prosecutor and the head of an association representing Los Angeles County prosecutors Wednesday decried Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order declaring a moratorium on the death penalty in California, while the L.A. County public defender’s office called it an “historic step” for criminal justice reform in the state.

“I’m obviously disgusted,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told City News Service. “The governor does not have the moral high ground here. He talks about the morality of his decision-making. Well, tell that to the victims of these most heinous crimes committed by California’s worst murderers.”

The governor should seek another referendum on the issue rather than unilaterally placing a moratorium on capital punishment, Spitzer said. He noted that former Gov. Jerry Brown was also morally opposed to the death penalty, but as attorney general and governor did not try to stop executions in the state.

“He understood his legal obligation and took an oath to uphold the constitution and uphold the laws,” Spitzer said of Brown.

Orange County has more than five dozen inmates on the state’s death row list, but in at least one of those cases, the District Attorney’s Office reversed course on pursuing the ultimate punishment for Kenneth Clair, who is housed in Orange County Jail as he pushes for a new trial.

Spitzer said when he was an assemblyman, he asked the warden for permission to be present at the execution of Clarence Ray Allen, the last inmate to be executed in California in January 2006, because he anticipated running for District Attorney one day and felt it was important to be more informed on the death penalty.

“If you’re going to make policy for or against the death penalty, you have an obligation to be fully educated on the issue,” Spitzer said. He said he “walked away from it with a lot of peace, knowing that I was very carefully looking because of all the controversy to see if there were any inappropriate body movements or anything that showed suffering or any indication of pain and I didn’t see anything like that.”

Spitzer’s office noted in a statement that a ballot measure to speed up the appellate process for death row inmates passed in 2016 “because Californians want to see justice for the victims of the 737 condemned inmates,” adding that 65 of those inmates were sentenced to death for crimes in Orange County.

Steve Herr, father of murder victim Sam Herr, whose killer Daniel Wozniak was sentenced to death in September 2016, said the governor “was going against the will of the people.”

Herr said the news was “very upsetting… We’re obviously disappointed, highly upset.”

Herr acknowledged that it was unlikely he would ever see Wozniak executed anyway, but it was comfort to him and his family knowing the killer was on death row.

“I’d like to hear (Newsom) explain to me and the victims why he thinks the death penalty is not the appropriate consequence” in Wozniak’s case. “He’s going to have to deal with the victims’ families. He has no idea how we feel. None whatsoever.”

Michele Hanisee, president of the union representing nearly 1,000 Los Angeles County deputy district attorneys, said the governor is “usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty.”

More than 200 inmates are on death row for murders committed in Los Angeles County — the largest number by far of any county in California.

But a number of politicians agreed with the governor, who called it “the right thing” to do, as did the office of Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia.

“The governor’s decision brings California closer to ending the death penalty, a deeply flawed and racially biased system that fails to improve public safety,” the public defender’s statement says. “Only last year, Vincente Benavides, a man who had spent 25 years on death row in California, was exonerated. Mr. Benavides had always maintained his innocence, and he had no criminal record or history of violence. An innocent man could have been executed. This is only one reason why the moratorium is so important.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor and state attorney general who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, called it “an important day for justice and for the state of California … As a career law enforcement official, I have opposed the death penalty because it is immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, wrote in a post on Medium, “What the governor does today and what California does today is courageous and civilized and more than a grand gesture. It is a momentous achievement … I commend Governor Gavin Newsom for this decision, putting California on the same path as other civilized governments of the world.”

Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, D-South Los Angeles, also welcomed the governor’s decision.

“Time and again we have seen the death penalty fail to promote justice. Whether evaluating communities subject to over-policing, discriminatory sentencing policies, or the use of new evidence to overturn past convictions, there are simply too many systemic concerns to support continued state-sponsored killings,” he said. “Additionally, the death penalty has been a misuse of taxpayer dollars as the state spends billions fighting appeals, far more than is spent on incarceration for life sentences.”

Meanwhile, two Republicans from Orange County issued statements opposing the governor’s decision to declare the moratorium and to immediately close the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison.

“As a member of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, I already see enough legislation favoring criminals, rather than the victims,” said Assemblyman Tyler Diep, R-Westminster “This action is completely unacceptable and a disregard to the will of the voters. I ask, `When will the governor stand up for the victims and their families? Protecting convicted felons is another horrible message to would-be criminals who are already enjoying lax laws in the state. When is enough, enough?”’

Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said she was “disappointed that today’s action undermines the will of California’s voters who spoke clearly in 2016 to reaffirm the death penalty.”

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, also criticized the move.

“Rather than a broad sweep, he could have dealt with any hint of injustice by examining each case giving reprieves where discrimination existed,” Moorlach said. “I’m just trying to grasp how the relatives of the victims will comprehend a possible slight to perpetrators who so tragically impacted their lives.”

Local attorney Seymour Amster — who defended convicted “Grim Sleeper” Lonnie Franklin Jr. in a Los Angeles Superior Court trial in which the former Los Angeles city garage attendant and sanitation worker was sentenced to death for the serial killings of nine women and a teenage girl — called the moratorium “a good first step.”

“Certainly we should listen to the governor and we should have discussions because the death penalty is truly not reducing crime in our communities and money would be better invested in education and law enforcement so we can truly reduce criminal behavior,” Amster told City News Service, echoing comments he made after jurors recommended in June 2016 that Franklin be sentenced to death.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, the California Innocence Project, Re:store Justice and Death Penalty Focus also lauded the governor’s order.

“It has been my dream for many years that we would end the human rights violation known as the death penalty in California,” said Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project. “It is certain that as long as there is the death penalty there is the risk of executing innocent people.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom Issues a Death Sentence on California’s Death Penalty

‘Governor’s decision of blanket reprieve of executions is abuse of power’

By Katy Grimes

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he is granting reprieves for all death penalty murderers on California’s death row, calling the death penalty “ineffective, irreversible and immoral.” He then signed an executive order putting a moratorium on the executions of the 737 inmates currently incarcerated in California’s death row.

With Newsom’s announcement a political friend said, “Another 737 just went down.”

“We cannot advance the death penalty in an effort to soften the blow of what happens to these victims,” Newsom said. “If someone kills, we do not kill. We’re better than that.”

In 2016, California voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have repealed the death penalty, and instead voted to expedite the executions of the inmates currently sitting on death row. Newsom supported the initiative to repeal. “The Governor clearly does not represent the majority of people in this state who want to see justice served for these heinous crimes,” said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore).

At his press conference, Newsom told a lengthy story of when he was a child, meeting a wrongly convicted man, and the impression it left on him. But victim’s groups are appalled.

“With his announcement that he is granting sentencing reprieves for all death penalty eligible murderers on California’s death row, Governor Gavin Newsom has substituted his own opinion for the repeated decisions of the state’s voters,” Michael Rushford with the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation said in an interview.

“The people have voted for the death penalty eleven times since 1972, including three times in the last seven years,” said Criminal Justice Legal Foundation Legal Director Kent Scheidegger in a press statement. “The Governor’s decision to grant a blanket reprieve to prevent executions is an abuse of power and a slap in the face of the families of murder victims.”

“The Governor can reprieve a case that raises a question, but this law was never meant to do a blanket moratorium,” Rushford added. “In a recent court filing, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined with murderers” and asked the federal court of appeals to reject a motion by the families of murder victims seeking to stay an illegal injunction that prevents the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from making itself able to carry out executions of the state’s worst murderers, Rushford said. “The AG said ‘victims are just bystanders, and they have no legal standing.’”

“Governor Newsom callously disregards the anguish of these families and rips from them any sense of justice, victimizing them all over again,” Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said. “The Governor has the authority to delay the implementation of the law but his action is eroding faith of California voters in our democracy and our system of justice.”

“These are the 737 inmates on California’s death row,” the Los Angeles Times reported. The LAT posted a database of all 737 inmates with the ability to click on a photo and read about the heinous crimes committed: serial killers, gang murderers, botched robberies/murders, violent crimes of passion, and some of the most vile, evil crimes imaginable are included.

Newsom, in prepared remarks prior to the press conference, also said the system has wasted “billions of taxpayer dollars.” However, Newsom was Lt. Gov. for eight years, and with Gov. Jerry Brown’s long history of opposing the death penalty, neither ever proposed actual reforms to the death penalty process. Currently, once a criminal is convicted to death row, he is granted three automatic appeals, which take decades. Most death row inmates die of old age rather than being put to death for their crimes.

Many sincere criminal justice reformers have proposed ways to speed up the appeals process, to not only bring swift justice to the victims, but to help root out wrongly convicted persons, rather than letting them rot in prison unjustly.

In 2016 when Prop. 66 was passed, it was intended to be a remedy to the most heinous criminals sitting on death row for 30 years, with endless appeals delaying justice and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions – and to ensure no innocent person was executed. Opponents sued, taking the case to the California Supreme Court, which upheld voters’ decision, but watered down a part of the initiative. The Court stated that provisions requiring the state to speed up the death penalty appeals process were directive, rather than mandatory.

Other reactions:

Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel):

“The announcement benefits people like Randy Kraft who butchered at least 16 young men and Scott Peterson who was convicted of murdering his wife and their unborn child. It sends the terrible message that the taking of innocent life will not be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Handing out unearned reprieves will only add to the pain felt by many of the victims’ relatives.”

Michele Hanisee, president, Association of Deputy District Attorneys said in a press statement:

“The voters of the State of California support the death penalty. That is powerfully demonstrated by their approval of Proposition 66 in 2016 to ensure the death penalty is implemented, and their rejection of measures to end the death penalty in 2016 and 2012. Governor Newsom, who supported the failed initiative to end the death penalty in 2012, is usurping the express will of California voters and substituting his personal preferences via this hasty and ill-considered moratorium on the death penalty.”

Re:store Justice said in a statement:

“This is a historic moment for California’s criminal justice system with Governor Newsom’s leadership to place a moratorium on the inhumane and discriminatory death penalty,” said Re:store Justice executive director and co-founder Alexandria Mallick.

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), said in a press statement:

“I applaud Governor Newsom for his courageous decision to a stop to all executions in California. The death penalty doesn’t make our communities safer, is immoral, and has huge racial disparities. It is time to end capital punishment in our state.”

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said in a press statement:

Indeed, during last year’s campaign for governor, a Newsom spokesperson said that, while he was personally opposed to the death penalty, “he recognizes that California voters have spoken on the issue and, if elected governor, he’d respect the will of the electorate by following and implementing the law.” Now that he has won that office, he’s knowingly defying the electorate.

Another aspect is the convicted killers come from the state’s counties whose elected District Attorneys spent $1 million or more to obtain each of these death sentences. It costs that much to obtain the death penalty, versus life in prison. Therefore, the counties have spent some $737 million to respect current law and the wishes of the constituents of the elected District Attorneys.

President Donald Trump said in a Tweet:

“Defying voters, the Governor of California will halt all death penalty executions of 737 stone cold killers. Friends and families of the always forgotten VICTIMS are not thrilled, and neither am I!”


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 and SB 689 Debate — March 12, 2019

The fun part of authoring legislation is that you get the opportunity to debate its merits, in both the Senate and Assembly committees and floors and in the public square.

In an effort to review the current fiscal and viability concerns about California’s high-speed rail, I’ve produced an in-depth analysis with recommendations. This effort is also in support of my High-Speed Road proposal, SB 319 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 and SB 689 — March 3, 2019). The Orange County Breeze provides our press release on yesterday’s publication of the study in the first piece below. The joys of debating a position.

Speaking of debate, there will be those who will argue against your legislative proposals in an effort to have them fail. Debate strategies are many. In the second piece below, from the electronic version of the OC Register, two tactics are used, arrogance and shame. You’ve got to love the "we’re academics and we know we are right and smarter than you and we insist that our approach be adopted everywhere, whether you like it or not" and the "if you don’t agree with this, you must be for drug overdoses and much worse."

Should SB 689 be successful, it will give the proponents of needle exchanges the ability to persuade local elected leaders that their position is the correct approach and meets all of their claims (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 319 and SB 689 — March 3, 2019). This is preferable to showing up unilaterally, uninvited and leaving what residents of the impacted area may consider a mess.

What is so difficult about convincing a city’s leadership about the efficacy of a particular program, especially if you believe that you’re absolutely right? But, are they right? I didn’t hear any studies cited in their arguments, just conjecture. And if they had any studies to share, it’s likely that their proof of a successful program happened under the purview of – you guessed it – strong local control and oversight.

But I did hear the shrug implying the assumption that they couldn’t possibly persuade an unsophisticated majority of a city council. And, that was the intention of this bill. Well, not even trying to be approved to provide their mobile services got them into a courtroom in the first place. It may be helpful to come out of the ivory towers, get into the real world, and see what is happening with discarded syringes. It is not pretty or safe or healthy. The debate has begun.

In conclusion, the third piece, from California Globe, has a debate with quotes from both sides of the subject. Since the current strategy has resulted in litigation, I’m just trying to provide an appropriate procedure to follow. If the needle exchange provider is persuasive, then the debate has ended.

Sen. John Moorlach releases report on California’s high-speed rail project

Today state Sen. John M. W. Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, released a new report reevaluating the controversial California High-Speed Rail project:

Although some parts of the project have been called into question by Gov. Gavin Newsom, it remains very much alive and continues to consume billions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money.

Sen. Moorlach’s 43-page report reviews the reasons for and against the project, including: federal funding, local problems, comparisons with high-speed rail projects in Asia and Europe, electric power lines’ impact on the recent spate of wildfires, Democrats opposing the project and alternatives that would better advance environmental goals while more efficiently transporting people across the state.

The report concludes with a discussion of Sen. Moorlach’s proposal for a California Autobahn-style project that would add lanes without speed limits to the 5 and 99 freeways, which he calls the High-Speed Road.

This article was released by the Office of Senator John Moorlach.

In Orange County, “local control” is code for inaction on syringe exchange


We are heartened that Senator Moorlach and supporters of SB 689 recognize the overwhelming evidence on the efficacy of syringe exchange programs: they decrease the spread of infectious disease; do not increase drug use or local crime; and often act as an entry point for people who use injection drugs to access healthcare, drug treatment, and resources for their recovery.

However, when Moorlach proposes increased “local control” over syringe exchanges, he is not stepping forward to be a part of the solution. Indeed, SB 689 is no solution at all. At no time does he address how local officials could or will improve syringe exchange efforts in Orange County.

Instead, Moorlach is using the cloak of local control to mask Orange County officials’ complete unwillingness to carry out their own harm reduction activities or work with the Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP) to improve its operations. Local control would serve as a barrier to syringe exchange programs and not a promise to help reform and improve them.

We would know: as long-time members of OCNEP’s leadership, we have often attempted to draw local members of City Councils, law enforcement, and the OC Health Care Agency into the fight against the opioid epidemic. OCNEP was founded because Orange County was (and once against is) the largest county in California without an evidence-based syringe exchange. Unfortunately, at all junctures we have been met with willful blindness to the evidence behind syringe exchange, hostility towards efforts for compromise, and foot-dragging around accepting the need for a syringe exchange in Orange County.

We do not contest the argument that collaborative relationships between syringe exchanges, local city councils, police, and health officials are imperative to helping both people who use injection drugs and also the broader community. In fact, many syringe exchanges across California have not had to seek authorization from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) because local officials were willing to play their part in harm reduction efforts. Instead of litigation, OCNEP would rather be working with officials to save the lives of Orange County citizens.

But through passing ordinances against syringe exchange and providing no other alternatives, local City Councils have shown that they have no interest in combating the opioid epidemic. By suing (rather than collaborating with) OCNEP, the OC Board of Supervisors made it clear that they have no real concern for our clients. The state’s ability to authorize syringe programs through the CDPH in the face of local inaction must be preserved.

Orange County’s version of local control is feigning concern about injection drug users and the opioid epidemic while trying to crush harm reduction efforts in the County that did and would continue to save lives. By not offering a single solution to issues that existed with OCNEP, it is clear that SB 689 supporters are comfortable with continuing to ignore the very real problem of substance use and overdose deaths in Orange County.

Local control only works if local government actually wants to solve problems, and Orange County officials only became interested in that control when they sought to shut OCNEP down. Local control is Orange County’s cover for denying access to needed resources as the nation’s opioid epidemic rages on.

Nathan Birnbaum is a fourth-year medical student at UC Irvine School of Medicine. Dallas Augustine is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society at UC Irvine. Mahan Naeim is a graduate of UC Irvine with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering.

Senator Moorlach Pushes Back Against Needle Exchange

SB 689 gives localities veto power over programs meant to curb drug abuse

By Laura Hauther

State Senator John Moorlach wants communities to have a say regarding needle exchange programs. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Opioid drug use is becoming an ever-larger nationwide issue but there is not yet agreement on how best to combat the problem. Some communities are pushing back on some of the more controversial harm reduction efforts like needle exchange programs (NEP). Such programs, opponents argue, bring more addicts into an area and cause increased crime, needle litter, and encourage more drug use.

Last Friday, in line with some of those complaints, Orange County state Senator John Moorlach introduced SB 689, a bill that would give cities local control over needle exchange programs by requiring local authorities to give any state-approved NEP the OK to operate in their communities.

Moorlach said he believes this would encourage good government etiquette and stop costly lawsuits.

“All I’m saying is let’s have a protocol in place,” Moorlach says. “These communities shouldn’t have to sue or waste money on litigation.”

Last year Orange County’s Board of Supervisors sued to stop a state-approved mobile NEP organized by Orange County Needle Exchange Program (OCNEP), a non-profit that planned to operate a mobile program in Costa Mesa, Anaheim, Orange, and Santa Ana.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil granted the board’s request for an injunction in November, citing 250,000 needles distributed that were not returned and reports of needle litter in parks and libraries. The injunction temporarily blocked the OCNEP from going forward until a hearing determines its fate sometime in 2019.

The state allows organizations to apply directly to the California Department of Health, Office of AIDS (CDH) to get authorization to run a needle exchange program once they’re met a list of requirements. The CDH may also help with supplies and funding.

Widespread IV drug use and the growing numbers of death by overdose has moved drug addiction to the center of public health programs in cities throughout the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of heroin and other opioids has gone up in most age groups and all income levels, even in groups with traditionally low rates of addiction, such as women and people with health insurance.

Overdose is now the most frequent cause of death in America for those under 50, and one prediction projects such deaths could rise from the current 100 a day to up to as much as 250 per day, according to a panel of public health experts in Stat magazine.

Before trying to develop their mobile program, OCNEP operated a weekly needle exchange at the Santa Ana Civic Center for two years before it was shut down in January of 2018 when their permit was revoked. They were the only needle exchange in Orange County, but even so they were only allowed to operate two hours a week, sometimes not even getting to everyone in line. They followed a protocol of giving out 20 needles to each one turned in, a strategy shown by studies to decrease rates of disease spread by dirty needles, like HIV and Hepatitis C. Clean needles also mean fewer incidences of MERSA and sepsis. The idea is to give the user enough clean needles to get them through to the next visit. To mitigate needle litter they also gave out free sharps disposal containers to encourage users to package used needles in ways where they are unlikely to puncture anyone accidentally.

In a statement on their website, OCNEP said studies show needle exchange programs usually do not result in more discarded syringes. They groups points out that “syringe litter” existed before their program and after it was shut down, citing a study that found “In cities without a needle exchange, improper disposal can be 800% higher.

OCNEP also insists they were trying to address specific community concerns about needle litter mentioned in the lawsuit when they were forced to shut their doors; by the time the program was shut down OCNEP was cleaning up more syringes from the surrounding community than they were passing out each week.

Syringe clean-up program would have been more effective, the groups claims, if Orange County’s health department had cooperated with their efforts and helped them keep the needle exchange open more often. Ricky Blumenthal, professor of preventive medicine at USC, said in an interview with Vox that the needle litter problem was exacerbated by the program’s limited two-hour a week schedule.

“In an ideal world you would have a syringe exchange program open for 40 hours a week,” Blumenthal added.

Michael Marquesen, executive director of Los Angeles Community Health Project, said efforts to shut down NEPs are “NIMBYism masquerading as concern. This is an end run around state law. The law was changed years ago so programs could go directly to the state and avoid this kind of thing.”

‘Needle exchanges or needle mills?’

State Senator Moorlach says he responding to the needs of his community. “I’m getting support from city councils and local governments–these programs should be on the local level. They should come from the bottom up, not the top down. Are these needle exchanges or needle mills? Is this really helping addicts to move toward sobriety?”

At the press conference announcing SB 689, Moorlach was joined by a wide range of Orange County officials, including Orange Mayor Mark Murphy, Anaheim City Councilman Trevor O’Neil, Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Sandra Genis, and Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer.

In an interview with KTLA news, Spitzer was clear he believes the NEP’s create problems for communities: “This is about a society which is starting to sanction this kind of behavior and trying to tell all of us that it’s OK. It’s not OK. We’re losing our neighborhoods.”

Moorlach also insists this is not an attempt to stop IV drug users from getting clean needles to prevent the spread of disease, saying anyone can go to a local pharmacy to exchange needles.

While the law requiring a prescription for syringes changed in 2015, pharmacies are still allowed to deny the request if they suspect IV drugs use. And they’re not free.

Scott Davis, former needle exchange coordinator at HIV Alliance in Oregon, said NEPs are not only a way for IV drug users to access a wide range of health care services, but also provide with each contact an opportunity to for a drug user to opt for treatment, as shown in several studies.

“It might take 20, 30, even 50 contacts to build that level of trust. It helps get them into treatment.” Davis said. “When they come to the exchange they’re treated with kindness and dignity. It makes a difference.”


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — The Curators — March 11, 2019

Having teachers prepare curriculum to instruct California’s school children on how to distinguish "fake news" is well-intentioned, but it remains to be seen if it’s appropriate. How about just improving student test scores on the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic?

Here is a slide from one of my recent presentations. It ranks states based on the average fourth-grade math scores for needy students (those obtaining a free school lunch).

If not for Alaska, California would be in last place.

When asked by Sharyl Attkisson about the proposed curriculum, I started with the over-reaction that many of my colleagues have had to the election of President Donald Trump in 2016. The bills and "barbs" were numerous and included the "fake news" legislation.

My second point was that the priority of teachers should not be what is and what is not "fake news," it should be improving the test scores. Wouldn’t it be great if California could at least be in the middle of the graph?

Real Clear Politics covers the interview, titled "The Curators," in the piece below. The video can be seen when clicking the link.

Sharyl Attkisson:Who Decides

What News Is Fake News?

Posted By Tim Hains

"Full Measure" host Sharyl Attkisson reports on efforts to improve "media literacy," and asks whether groups whose goal is to expose media bias have their own biases.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: We’ve entered a brave, new world in the information age where it can be tough to know what’s real. Now there are movements to help us sort through it all— to teach our kids media literacy, to "curate" our information, and cull out "fake news." Sounds like a good idea. After all, who doesn’t want their news straight up? But what if some of those efforts are actually attempts to control the narrative? Today’s cover story examines "The Curators."

In January, the website BuzzFeed had a bombshell: anonymous sources claimed President Trump instructed his attorney to lie to Congress. And that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had the goods. It wasn’t long before Mueller took an unusual step— publicly denying it.

President Trump: I think that the BuzzFeed piece was a disgrace to our country.

Jeffrey Toobin: The press screwed up and they should apologize and you know the media isn’t as great as it thinks it is. This is a bad day for the news media. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: BuzzFeed stands by its report.

Whatever the case, it underscores how it’s getting harder to separate fact from fiction in the news. Now, there are unprecedented efforts by third parties— to curate information for you.

Some even want to give lessons to first graders on how to sort through fake news— between math and reading.

Person on street: I think children or young adults need to be informed about how to decipher what is real news and not.

Person on street: I think everyone, not just high school students, everyone should get educated about what to believe and not believe with the media.

Person on street: We really have to understand who you’re hearing it from, why they may be telling you what they’re telling you and generate your own viewpoints from there.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Do you think there is a way for the government or third parties to get involved in curating our information for us so that we can really read factual information? Or is that just a no win proposition?

KATY GRIMES: I think the answer is absolutely no. It’s a no-win proposition.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Katy Grimes is an investigative journalist in California — one of the states where lawmakers have been pushing for new laws to root out “fake news” and teach media literacy in public schools. The question is — who decides what’s real when it’s a matter in dispute.

KATY GRIMES: I think we, we’ve seen a lot of history in the past when you’ve got governments that try to control media. We’ve got governments around the world still trying to control media and it’s limiting what the populations who live there get.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Is it sort of a new trend in your experience to see government stepping in and saying that it has a role to play in helping sort through or curate information for us?

KATY GRIMES: Yes. This seems to be a very new role and it’s extremely disturbing. They’re trying to pass a bill that would require schools to teach children some idea of what fake news is. And I think that’s just a giant red flag.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: President Obama first drew national attention to the notion that somebody needed to start curating information. It was less than a month before the 2016 election. Liberal interests had already introduced the phrase “fake news” to criticize campaign-driven conspiracy theories.

President Obama: We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: With the President’s announcement, an organized effort grew. According to the advocacy group "Media Literacy Now," which is pushing for new laws, 10 states considered media literacy legislation last year alone. Sponsors of 3 California bills, Senators Richard Pan, Hannah-Beth Jackson and Bill Dodd, wouldn’t sit down for interviews to discuss their proposals with us. Ultimately, only one of the bills was signed into law: one requiring the state to provide media literacy resources for public school teachers. We did get the chance to talk to California Senator John Moorlach, who told us the legislative efforts are politically-driven.

There are proposals to teach media literacy in public schools. What is your feeling about that?

JOHN MOORLACH: Well, two things. One is: the state legislature has not reacted well to the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States. So, there are a lot of barbs that keep being thrown that way. But two, our educational system isn’t something to brag about necessarily. I’d be happy if we could teach our kids to read, you know, do math and, and understand, you know, basic science concepts, than to worry about fake news.

MICKEY HUFF: I like to give at least some benefit of the doubt that there are some people involved in these efforts that have integrity and are well-intentioned.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: California-based “Project Censored,” a media watchdog group, has been teaching college-focused media literacy since 1976. Director Mickey Huff is wary of some of the newer efforts.

MICKEY HUFF: I can’t, however, help but be suspicious because the way in which that, that these things have been rolled out and “media literacy” is now a buzz phrase, right? The whole fighting of fake news has become a Trojan horse to propel other agendas. And in the name of telling us what is fake news, we’re also seeing more censorship, whether, again, it’s algorithmically through bots, through filter bubbles, whether it’s outsourcing fact checkers, right? Like Snopes or Politifact.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: But do you suspect there are special interest behind some of these efforts that are actually trying to shape opinion and do the opposite of what they say they’re trying to do?

MICKEY HUFF: Absolutely. And the name of fighting fake news is purposely suppressing certain views, certain narratives, certain sources. And so at Project Censored, we believe that that is a very problematic effort. It, unfortunately, does get to masquerade in sort of a “do good” capacity. In other words, who’s going to be against media literacy if we’re trying to fight fake news?

SHARYL ATTKISSON: It sounds good.

MICKEY HUFF: Sounds fantastic. Until you realize how certain groups are doing it.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: On the front lines are college students like Edward Jacobs. He took an independent pilot course in media literacy last year while he was in high school. What did he learn? To be skeptical of the curators.

EDWARD JACOBS: The very idea that there should be some middlemen curating what ideas we’re exposed to is very dangerous. Even if it were someone who agreed with what our personal opinions were, that would in effect restrict us from being exposed to many different viewpoints and that’s really something that our country doesn’t need, especially among the youth demographic today.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: It’s Phil Dunn who taught the high school course that Eddie took. As a student of media manipulation and author of “Media Collusion,” Dunn says the key is critical thinking, not pushing curated views.

PHIL DUNN: When you talk about media literacy that the people that want to teach that are oftentimes invested in certain kind of legacy media outfits, the New York Times, The Washington Post, the big three networks, CNN, Fox, all of them would love to tell you what to listen to and, and how to listen to it. And I think you can throw in Google and Facebook as well because it’s on the right side and it’s chosen and may be censored and maybe curated, you know, we put quotes around curated.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: To be clear, in your class, you don’t teach the kids, “rely on this source, go to the New York Times, trust the Washington Post or Fox News?”


SHARYL ATTKISSON: What do you teach them instead?

PHIL DUNN: How to look, where to look. What to discover about who’s telling you what’s fake and what’s not. I mean, there’s a chapter on Snopes in there and Snopes has its own people that have their own bias.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Perhaps best put we may need media literacy instruction to determine which media literacy efforts are genuine. And which may be just attempts to shape and manipulate.

What would your advice be to people who hear what sound like well-meaning efforts to curate their information, to sort out fake news, to make kids understand media literacy by teaching them in elementary school or middle school or high school?

MICKEY HUFF: I would say, well, one of the basic things is who benefits from that education? Who’s forming the curriculum, who’s funding it? If it’s coming through government, who’s funding the particular sponsors of the bills? Who has a seat at the table? And I think the only thing that we really have at the end of the day is our own capacity to think critically and independently.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: One new media literacy effort is called MediaWise, which aims to educate teens with social media and a teacher curriculum developed by Stanford. They’ve started a teen fact-checking network and are working with YouTube to produce videos. MediaWise is funded by Google.


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Open Transparency — March 8, 2019

I try not to be repetitious, but the topics below deserve a little bit of my attention. To keep it short, I’m not including any recent pieces on my Autobahn bill.

The first piece below, from California Globe, provides a supportive commentary on my Open Financial Statement Act, Senate Bill 598 ((see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 496 and SB 598 — March 6, 2019).

The second piece, in the Red Bluff Daily News, needs a small explanation. I do try to provide something special and different under appropriate circumstances. The “noogie” was to a non-Senate employee, we were laughing at the time of the photo session, and calling it in to the Senate hotline may have been overkill. I also thought the investigation was brief and disappointing, and should not have been a high cost effort on behalf of the outside legal firm. Those familiar with me know that I have a sense of humor and an incredible wife of nearly 39 years. Getting caught up in this net seems a little unnecessary and those who have discussed it with me have been upset with the silliness of it all.

The third piece, from FOX News, covers the accrued vacation costs addressed in yesterday’s UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Accrued Vacation Time — March 7, 2019). I responded to the reporter while waiting for a flight in the Sacramento Airport. I should have been a little more detailed, but I was rushed. During the Great Recession, the cash flow constraints made it very difficult to pay off this liability when County employees retired. Having to lay off employees to pay these large sums was gut-wrenching and reflected priorities that were difficult to explain. But, these were bargained for prior to my coming on the Board of Supervisors. End of story.

California’s Antiquated Legislature

Can Update State Technologies

In the birthplace of high tech, government financial statements exist only in PDF format

By Edward Ring

Last year, California’s state Senate and Assembly passed 1,217 pieces of legislation. Governor Brown signed 1,016 of them into law, and most took effect January 1st. Included were predictable acts of liberal zealotry – sanctuary for the undocumented, gender equity on corporate boards, gun control, “me-too” inspired laws, a mandate to move California to 100% “clean” energy by 2045, laws to protect government unions, reduce mandatory criminal punishment, and, of course, a ban on plastic straws.

To be fair, most of these issues aren’t black and white. But what’s notable is a complete lack of legislation that might reflect some kind of ideological balance. Where were the laws to rebuild our highways, fast-track the construction of the Sites Reservoir, open land for housing development, license new nuclear power plants, or permit drilling for natural gas? As Tony Soprano would say, “fuggedaboutit!”

There’s one law pending in this year’s legislative session, however, that could do a world of good. It’s probably the best new proposed law that nobody’s ever heard of. It’s utterly bipartisan, and wouldn’t cost much at all to implement.

That law is SB 598, the Open Financial Statements Act, sponsored by Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). It’s fitting that Senator Moorlach is the author of this bill, because he is the only certified public accountant serving in a state legislature, which is quite likely the most financially illiterate group of state legislators in America.

This isn’t idle speculation. A recent analysis by the California Policy Center analyzed the 2019-2020 class of senators and assemblymen in California’s state legislature, examining each legislator’s background. It found that 75 percent of the Democratic legislators had no experience in private business. Since the Democrats control more than 75 percent of the seats in California’s legislature, that means that as a collective body, these legislators do not really understand what it takes to run a business – or read a financial statement.

This economic idiocy is evident in the laws California’s legislature has passed, or is contemplating. Apart from their ideological uniformity, some of them have epic financial repercussions. They approved retroactive pension benefit increases during a stock market bubble, unaware of the slow motion catastrophe they unleashed as markets returned to reality. They approved high-speed rail, blithe to the project’s failure to pass even the most rudimentary cost/benefit analysis. They’ve got their eyes on universal health care and free pre-school, apparently unaware of the stupefying cost. Examples of Democratic innumeracy are endless.

When the legislators don’t have the training to understand the economic and financial impact of the laws they pass, somebody else has to do it for them. In-house, that is legislative staff and the massive state bureaucracy, and on the outside, journalists, watchdogs, activists, credit agencies, bond underwriters, and investors. But unfortunately, the information they get to work with is trapped in obsolete 20th century formats.

This is where SB 598 ascends from accounting geekville and represents a real opportunity for reform-minded, financially responsible Californians to take back their state. Today, while financial statements for California’s state and local agencies are available online, they exist only in PDF format. These reports are printed on paper, and the “electronic copies” that are saved and uploaded are little more than image files. SB 598 will take these online reports into the 21st century, and would require the State Controller to post all public agency audit reports on their website.

Applying 21st Century Technology to Transparency Mandates

When an online financial statement is just an image file, it is opaque. That is, if you want to take the numbers reported on that image and do any sort of analysis, you have to manually enter all the numbers over again onto a spreadsheet. As it is, every year, California’s various government agencies upload annual financial statements in PDF format for review by, for example, credit agencies. Meanwhile, similar data is required by the state controller, but these reports are hand entered into an online system. Local governments have trouble keeping their respective PDF and controller reports in sync, giving rise to data errors. SB 598 solves this problem.

What SB 598 will require is for all of California’s state and local government agencies to use XBRL, or “Extensible Business Reporting Language.” This proven technology is similar to HTML, and like HTML, is used to create web pages. But XBRL web pages are formatted so that entire tables of numbers can be copied and pasted in Excel spreadsheets. They are also “machine readable,” which means that data mining programs can automatically extract all of the numerical information on them, pouring it into a database, or onto a spreadsheet.

In the private sector, the Securities and Exchange Commission already requires publicly traded corporations to use XBRL on their posted quarterly and annual financial statements. Among government entities, XBRL has already been adopted by the State of Florida, and is being adopted in Utah. Insofar as California is the birthplace of high technology, and remains its epicenter, it should be a bipartisan slam-dunk for California’s legislators to adopt XBRL here.

The benefits of having XBRL are many, and deserve explanation, because it’s easy to acknowledge and promptly forget about something that, while transformative, flies way under the radar. The challenge of properly analyzing and exposing many of California’s most serious fiscal challenges, using today’s reports, is nearly insurmountable. Examples abound.

California has 83 independent pension systems, nearly all of them woefully underfunded and nearly all of them planning to roughly double the amount they’re requiring their client employers to pay them. How will this affect California’s cities, counties, special districts and state agencies? What is the collective impact of these payment increases on California’s taxpayers? With XBRL, an analyst can unleash an automated program that will download the financial statements of all 83 pension systems, producing a consolidated report showing the exact financial condition of those systems if they were a single entity. With this information, it would be a simple matter to assess and report, among other things, the total unfunded liability, and the total required payments.

There are very immediate financial challenges facing Californians that would be far easier to understand and cope with if XBRL were implemented. Two timely examples are the Los Angeles Unified School District, and one of its counterparts up north, the Oakland Unified School District. In both cases, these school districts are in deep financial trouble. Despite these difficulties, their unions have successfully negotiated increases in pay and headcount. LAUSD confronts $14 billion in debt for retirement healthcare, and $7 billion in debt for unfunded pensions. Their net position on their balance sheet is a negative $7 billion. If it were easier to collect these financial facts, more people would look them up, and maybe LAUSD would be cutting non-teaching positions and selling off underutilized school properties, instead of handing out raises and hiring new staff.

Finance is the analytical glue that makes it possible to understand the viability of public policies. It is the indispensable language that describes why a public endeavor succeeds or fails. By adopting XBRL, California’s state and local governments will make it possible for more people, including people who need to know, able to speak this language. As Senator Moorlach has said with respect to SB 589, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

California spent $1.8 million on legal costs for sexual harassment investigations

At least nine legislators were named in the investigations in 2018


The California Legislature racked up more than $1.8 million in legal costs from sexual harassment investigations during 2018 and the first month of this year when at least nine current or former lawmakers faced allegations of misconduct, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

The Senate spent $1.26 million and the Assembly $571,000, according to the documents provided under the Legislative Open Records Act.

Neither chamber provided specifics on how many investigations the money paid for nor how exactly it was spent, citing attorney-client privilege and other exemptions in the public records act.

But both chambers previously have disclosed hiring outside attorneys during that time to investigate five current or former Assembly members and four current or former senators.

Their behavior ranged from using vulgar language and giving uncomfortable hugs and a “noogie,” to forcibly kissing a staff member and, in one case, masturbating in front of a lobbyist.

The spending occurred after accusations of widespread harassment at the Capitol surfaced in October 2017 as the #MeToo movement was roiling Hollywood and major corporations.

Four California lawmakers and multiple staffers eventually resigned, and the Legislature has since revamped its policies for reporting and investigating claims of misbehavior.

“It’s not the kind of place you want your taxpayer dollars being used,” said Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, a Democrat representing part of Los Angeles and surrounding communities who led the committee to change harassment policies. “The goal of our new policies is to try to intervene much earlier before we get to a point where you need to have a very large investigation.”

A new “Workplace Conduct Unit” debuted in February to look into all allegations of harassment and discrimination, sexual or otherwise, based on someone’s race, gender or other protected classes. The findings of major investigations will then go to a panel of outside experts who will evaluate them and recommend action to the Legislature.

Lawmakers approved $1.5 million to get the four-person office up and running last year, and its proposed annual budget is $1.7 million. Some investigations could still be sent to outside lawyers, but most complaints will be handled internally, said Julia Johnson, the head of the unit.

“We expect that as this new process moves forward, it will be both effective for employees in stopping harassment and efficient for taxpayers in how it achieves that critical goal,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins said in an emailed statement.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said his priority is for staff to feel safe and to create a more respectful, diverse and civil culture.

“For that to happen, we have to investigate workplace misconduct thoroughly and consistently. I will not put a price on the safety of our employees,” he said in an emailed statement.

In 2018, the Legislature went regularly to outside lawyers to look into complaints. Firms hired by the Assembly in 2018 were: Littler Mendelson P.C., Stoel Rives LLP, and Van Dermyden Maddux Investigations. The Senate, meanwhile, hired the Law Offices of Amy Oppenheimer initially and later retained Van Dermyden Maddux and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP to handle all investigations.

The decision to put two firms on retainer came as the Senate was taking heat over allegations former Sen. Tony Mendoza harassed multiple young women, including offering an underage employee alcohol and inviting another to his home. The firms are no longer handling sexual harassment investigations for the Senate, said Lizelda Lopez, Atkins’ spokeswoman.

Former Senate president Kevin de Leon, who was in charge when the firms were put on retainer, said in a text message that employees’ safety was the top priority and that the outside firms were brought in to ensure complaints were “aggressively investigated, free of any political influence.”

Neither chamber discloses information about allegations that are not substantiated, making it impossible to know the number of investigations actually completed.

The Senate also paid out a $350,000 settlement to an employee who said the chamber failed to accommodate her needs after she alleged an Assembly employee raped her; the Assembly said it paid out no settlements during that time.

The Senate did not respond to questions about whether that $350,000 was part of its legal costs. Republican Assemblyman Steven Choi has introduced a bill that would ban the use of taxpayer money on settlements.

Beyond legal costs, the Assembly and Senate together spent $16,800 hiring an outside consulting firm to conduct a “culture survey” in 2018 to assess whether staff members felt respected and comfortable reporting incidents of harassment to their superiors, among other things.

The money went to a Florida-based firm called TalentKeepers. The company charged $5 for each employee taking the survey, a total of 2,661 people, according to an invoice.

Kim Nalder, a professor of political science at California State University, Sacramento, surmised the public’s reaction to all the spending will vary depending on their feelings about the issues raised by #MeToo. Nearly a year-and-a-half after the movement seized the national spotlight, America still is experiencing a cultural awakening about what behavior now is considered unacceptable, she said.

“Californians who are in the ‘zero tolerance’ camp are going to be horrified that we’re paying to investigate this many examples of gross misbehavior,” Nalder said. “And I suspect some older people will feel like it’s a reflection of a sensitivity that they may find overblown.”

A list of the legislators and allegations:

— Former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh: Investigators substantiated allegations he followed a lobbyist into a bathroom and began masturbating in front of her at an event in Las Vegas in 2016. The Democrat resigned but denies the allegations and sued the lobbyist for defamation.

— Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia: She was cleared of allegations she groped a former legislative staff member in 2014 but investigators found she used vulgar language in violation of the chamber’s sexual harassment policies. The Democrat won re-election in 2018.

— Assemblyman Devon Mathis: He was reprimanded for making sexual comments about other lawmakers, described by investigators as “locker room talk.” The Republican won re-election in 2018.

— Former Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra: Investigators say he harassed several women while serving as an Assembly staff member about a decade ago. In one case, he put a subordinate’s bracelet down his pants and asked her to retrieve it. The Democrat resigned in late 2017 but maintained his innocence.

— Former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas: Investigators found he likely forcibly kissed a woman. The Democrat denies the allegations but resigned in late 2017, citing health reasons.

— Former Sen. Tony Mendoza: Investigators say he likely engaged in unwanted “flirtatious or sexually suggestive” behavior with six women, including four subordinates, a lobbyist and a young woman in a fellowship program. The behavior included offering a 19-year-old intern alcohol in a hotel suite at a Democratic Party event. The Democrat resigned in February 2018 but denied wrongdoing.

— Sen. Bob Hertzberg: Investigators found he gave people hugs that made them uncomfortable but concluded it wasn’t meant to be sexual. The Democrat stayed in office.

Sen. John Moorlach: Investigators say he gave a woman a “noogie,” but did not intend it to be sexual. The Republican still is in office.

— Former Sen. Joel Anderson: Investigators say he threatened to slap a lobbyist at a bar near the Capitol, which he denied, and rubbed her shoulders. Anderson, a Republican, was termed out of office in 2018 and lost a bid for a seat on a state tax board.

Banked time-off pay for California workers creates huge taxpayer liability

By Andrew Craft | Fox News

In California, it pays to hold onto your allotted vacation days, at least if you’re a state government worker.

A Los Angeles Times study of payroll data from the state controller’s office has found that the Golden State paid nearly $300 million for banked time off in 2018.

The controller’s office referred Fox News to the California Department of Human Resources, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The data included most agencies and departments, excluding legislative employees and workers at public universities.

One recently retired employee, Bijan Sartipi, who worked as a transportation engineer, received a payout of $405,000 for time off he never used, according to the news organization’s research.

The state does have a cap on vacation accrual but enforcement is lax, leaving state workers to retire with massive compensatory payouts. California mandates vacation balances for most employees be capped at 640 hours.

The state is obligated to make the payment, inevitably leaving lawmakers to cut programs from other departments to balance the budget and offset the costs of that vacation hoarding.

“You wait for the guy to retire and then you send him a $300,000 check. … In a budget surplus mode like right now it’s great, but if you’re in a recession it sucks,” said Republican state Sen. John Moorlach.

“It is just so onerous, and this is not just at the state level, this is at the county and city level, too.”

Moorlach said the issue can be addressed starting with Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat.

“At least Governor [Jerry] Brown tried to give them the opportunity to try and pay it down; it seems to me it has to start at the bargaining table,” he said.

The study found state workers had $3.5 billion in unused leave as of 2017, creating a massive unfunded liability for the state.

The analysis also found that vacation payouts can far surpass annual salaries. For example, if an employee cashes out stored-up leave, California pays them for the hours accrued. In addition, the state projects how much additional time he or she would have earned for actually taking those days off.

Plus, state labor code requires compensation for unused days based on the employee’s final pay rate, so the actual cost of each vacation hour increases over time.

Moorlach is pessimistic that there is a quick and simple remedy. He says it would be tough to negotiate an even harsher cap on unused vacation hours with government employee unions.

“Can we fix this?” he asked. “Probably not.”


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Accrued Vacation Time — March 7, 2019

After a long interview with the reporter, only one observation was included in the LA Times piece below. Let me explain with something I observed on Santa Ana’s Orco Tool sign, along the Costa Mesa Freeway, which stated: “A pessimist is an optimist with experience.” This may explain my quote.

Based on my experience as a County Supervisor, I could not modify the egregious accumulation of unused vacation time by hours. I did try to bank it at the amounts when it was earned, which would have been fairer than paying it out based on the final salary (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Birthday! — September 30, 2013). But, this unique supplemental pension technique is still being abused and it is great to see an article on the subject.

California state workers hoarding vacation days, creating $3.5-billion debt for taxpayers


After 36 years as a California government transportation engineer, Bijan Sartipi retired with much more than a goodbye party: He was paid $405,000 for time off he never used — one of more than 450 state workers who took home six-figure checks when they left their jobs last year.

And Sartipi didn’t top the list — a prison surgeon in Riverside pocketed $456,002.

In a trend that stems from lax enforcement of the state’s cap on vacation accrual, more and more state workers are able to retire with massive payouts for unused vacation and other leave. That could become a budget breaker for California as an aging workforce heads into retirement. During the next recession, California will be obligated to continue the payouts, forcing lawmakers to cut programs to balance the state budget.

Last year, the state paid its employees nearly $300 million for banked time off, according to a Times analysis of payroll data from the state controller’s office. The data include most agencies and departments, but not legislative employees or other taxpayer-funded institutions such as the public university systems. That means the actual cost to taxpayers for unused vacation is much higher.

The total unfunded liability also does not account for employees who used stockpiled days off at the end of their careers to remain employed while not actually working, boosting the value of their pensions.

All told, state workers had $3.5 billion in unused leave as of 2017, the most recent estimate available. The blame, said Stanford public policy professor Joe Nation, rests entirely on government mismanagement.

“It’s like having a speed limit but not enforcing it,” he said. “This is not a good way to run any organization.”

California mandates that vacation balances for most employees be capped at 640 hours. Sporadic enforcement of the rule, coupled with an increasing number of state workers retiring, has led to a 60% rise in the number of six-figure payouts since 2012, when 280 employees each cashed in unused paid leave totaling $100,000 or more, The Times’ analysis found.

Even so, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for Gov. Gavin Newsom, “the state has made significant strides in recent years in reducing unused leave balances.”

Some departments have offered workers a chance to cash out up to 80 hours accrued time off each year in hopes of reducing the liability of larger payout when workers retire at a higher salary. According to the Department of Finance, the state wrote checks totaling $111 million over a three-year period ending in 2017 to help reduce vacation balances — an effort started under former Gov. Jerry Brown.

Most private-sector employers cap vacation between 40 hours and 400 hours and do not allow time to be earned beyond those limits.

In California, public-sector union contracts are negotiated at the direction of the governor and must be approved by the Legislature. Any changes to how much vacation employees could store would have to be negotiated and such concessions would not come easily. The state’s powerful and deep-pocketed public-sector unions showered Newsom with contributions, and labor is also among the biggest donors to Democratic lawmakers, who have supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature.

State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said revising the vacation policy would help California contain its liabilities, but did not believe that was politically feasible.

“I doubt Gavin Newsom will go to the bargaining table to see if he can fix it,” Moorlach said. “Our governors are very reliant on public employee union contributions, so this is just not going to happen.”

State workers also enjoy another vacation perk most public sector workers have not heard of. When employees cash out their banked leave, the state government pays them not just for the hours they have on the books, but also projects how much additional time they would have earned if they had taken the days off. That means a person with 640 hours of vacation would also be paid for all of the vacation and holidays they would have earned had they taken those 80 days off.

For some, vacation payouts can surpass annual salaries. And since state labor code requires employers to compensate workers for unused days off based on final pay rate — not what they were earning when the time was accrued — the actual cost of each vacation hour increases over time.

The top 20 employees with the largest payouts in 2018 took home a combined $5.9 million, with all but three receiving raises in the year before they left state service. The raises increased the employees’ leave payouts by an average of $7,500 apiece, The Times’ analysis found.

“That’s in line with pension spiking,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. — likening it to boosting retirement pay with last-minute salary increases, a practice banned in many cases under a 2012 reform law. “It’s an abuse and it should be corrected with legislation,” Coupal said.

Sartipi took home an additional $15,000 for unused time off thanks to a 4% raise in his final year of work.

The onetime district director for the California Department of Transportation in Alameda County received $405,119 for banked time off — the equivalent of more than 4,400 hours of vacation, or two years of stored leave, according to The Times’ analysis. His annual salary when he retired was $191,208.

When asked for comment, Sartipi declined.

The state controller’s office would not provide the number of vacation days employees had amassed, saying the information was confidential. But of the 20,400 workers who cashed out their time off last year, nearly 6,200 received at least $10,000. The majority of vacation payouts were less than $5,000, the analysis showed.

Many who received large payouts worked in prisons or public safety positions, where staffing shortages and emergencies can make it difficult to schedule vacations.

“I would have rather had been taking time off than taking a payout,” said Kim Zagaris, the former fire and rescue chief for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Zagaris, whose state career spanned three decades, received $218,000 from unused vacation when he retired last year. He said the tax bite out of that lump-sum payment was around 40%.

The number of vacation hours banked by state workers jumped in the years after 2009, when California furloughed workers during the recession. The forced unpaid time off meant many did not need to use vacation or could not afford to.

In 2016, the Department of Human Resources began tracking the amount of unused leave accumulated and working with managers to have those over the cap create plans to use the time up. A spokesman said the department plans to post the state’s total number of unused vacation hours and the cash value of that liability online later this year.

As of 2017, state workers had accrued 75 million hours of paid leave, according to the controller’s office.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections accounted for a third of those hours, which carried a $1-billion price tag. The California Highway Patrol had $396 million in unused leave on the books, the data show; Caltrans was on the hook for $366 million.

When J.J. Jelincic was ready to retire from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in January 2018, he opted to take his vacation time instead of a lump-sum payment. Jelincic, who has been on vacation for more than a year, said that was the smarter investment.

Because while on vacation, he has received a 4% raise that went to everyone in his job classification. And since he is still an employee, he is increasing his total state service. The net impact will mean an increase of his pension. Jelincic is also accruing more vacation time while on vacation — and receiving holiday pay.

The state requires employees to get a manager’s approval to burn down their vacation before retiring instead of receiving a lump-sum payment.

Mike Genest, who served as budget director for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said there are times when large payouts to hardworking state employees are warranted.

“But, I would say most of the time it is abused,” Genest said.

He received $37,000 in unused time off when he left the Department of Finance in 2009.

“I have no guilt for the taxpayer that I was milking the system,” Genest said.

“People knew I worked ungodly hours most of the time.… It could be looked at as abuse, but I tell you I deserved it and I have no qualms saying that as a fiscal conservative.”


This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.